Leslie Lewis is a singer who has found steady work on the West Coast and elsewhere, and for good reasonshe's personable, easy on the eyes, and more to the point, has a pleasant mid-range voice, sings squarely on key, and knows how to sell a lyric. Keeper of the Flame
and Midnight Sun
are Lewis' second and third recordings (Of Two Minds,
released in 2008, was the first), all of them with the splendid Gerard Hagen
Trio and special guests.
Leslie LewisKeeper of the Flame
Whether or not Lewis is a "jazz singer" is open to debate but largely beside the point. While she sings most songs straight (no chaser), her phrasing and timing are certainly jazz-oriented, and her supporting cast accentuates the jazz positive on every number. On Flame,
the trio is reinforced by woodwind specialist Gary Foster
whose alto saxophone and flutes serve as a constant reminder that this is without question a jazz date, as do Chuck Manning
's tenor sax and Joey Sellers
' trombone on Midnight Sun.
is comprised for the most part of well-known tunes from the Great American Songbook, Flame
is a succulent blend of appetizers from the States and entrees from Brazil including Antonio Carlos Jobim
's "A Felicidade," "Fotographia" and "Chega de Saudade" (No More Blues), plus Ivan Lins
' "The Island." Lewis scats only briefly, and doesn't sing in any language other than her native tongue. That's fine, as the English lyrics are charming, especially "No More Blues" (on which Lewis overlays a brassy sheen that is quite far removed from, say, Flora Purim
or Astrud Gilberto
Midnight SunSurf Cove Jazz
The lesser-known songs on Midnight Sun
Burt Bacharach / Hal David's "A House Is Not a Home," Paul and Linda McCartney's "My Love"are explicit highlights, but by no means the only ones, as Lewis fares equally well at a faster clip, as on "Lover Come Back to Me," "It's All Right with Me," "I Believe in You" and "Love Me or Leave Me" (which includes one of the most bizarre lyrics ever written: "I'd rather be lonely than happy with somebody else." Huh?) Hagen, who doubles as arranger, trebles (offstage) as Lewis' husband. Along with bassist Domenic Genova
and drummer Jerry Kalaf
, he does his best to keep her in an upbeat frame of mind, as do Foster, Manning and Sellers. When Lewis sings Frank Loesser's "I Believe in You," she may as well be applauding her supporting cast.
A pair of first-rate albums by a vocalist who whose singular talents should be more widely heard and appreciated.
Tracks and PersonnelKeeper of the Flame
Tracks: Keeper of the Flame; The Island; Spring Is Here; Day by Day; A Felicidade; You Don't Know What Love Is; Fotographia; Chega de Saudade (No More Blues); Speak Low; Caravan.
Personnel: Leslie Lewis: vocals; Gerard Hagen: piano; Domenic Genova: bass; Jerry Kalaf: drums, percussion; Gary Foster: alto sax, flute, alto flute.Midnight Sun
Tracks: Love Me or Leave Me; Midnight Sun; It's All Right with Me; A House is Not a Home; Lover Come Back to Me; My Love; I Believe in You; The Man I Love; Where or When.
Personnel: Leslie Lewis: vocals; Gerard Hagen: piano; Domenic Genova: bass; Jerry Kalaf: drums, percussion; Chuck Manning: tenor sax; Joey Sellers: trombone.